Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Professional Advice to the Young and Restless

I wrote this email recently, pasted below, addressed to a brilliant young colleague and friend... he's a free radical in corporate America.  I share it on my blog as: (1) A bit of a public confession about my own flaws. The first step in improvement is publicly admitting you have a problem, right?; (2) In hopes that it might help other young free radicals; and (3) Documenting this for our little daughter, Anna, who at 14 months old, is already showing signs of my genetic influence in this context. Maybe she'll read this in 25 or 30 years and find some value in it.



Hey buddy,

Other than you being much smarter than me, you remind me so much of myself early in my career… struggling to balance the tension between self-confidence and ability to see two and three moves ahead, with the pace of change and decisions that surrounded me that I didn’t always agree with.  I still struggle with it, but I’m better about expressing it in a valuable way.

I’m not necessarily suggesting that you knock the edge off your constant dissatisfaction with the status quo. Endless gratitude for the status quo never made the world a better place.  I’m only suggesting that you manage that chronic dissatisfaction, which is something that I didn’t necessarily do very well early in my career. I stacked up lots of awesome achievements and adventures, but I also stacked up lots of bodies, especially among my peers. My bosses loved me, even though I kept them uncomfortable, wondering what I was going to do and say next, and stakeholders loved me because I delivered results and value to them. My peers? I left a bloody wake, much of the time… not always… but quite often… probably 30% of the time, my peers suffered because I was too harsh and critical of them while I intruded my opinions upon their areas of responsibility. The ironic bad news is, I was usually right, about 90% of the time, and history proved that, so my confidence fed on itself in a feedback loop, thus encouraging future intrusions…! I had to learn, and am still learning, how to stop that feedback loop.

Finally, it’s really, really important that you keep a balanced life… family, friends, physical exercise, prayer and meditation.  If you are like me in this context, the chronic dissatisfaction tends to go very negative and becomes very difficult to manage when I’m imbalanced and tired.  You have to say “No” occasionally to demands on your time and you have to stay balanced, if you stand any chance of managing the downsides to your intellect, healthy dissatisfaction, and vision.

I hope this is helpful and not meddlesome!


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